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What happens in Mozart's Magic Flute?

Magical instruments, romantic couples and a fight between light and darkness: Here's a summary of Mozart's enchanting opera.

ACT 1
Prince Tamino is attacked by a serpent, and falls unconscious to the ground. He is rescued by the three ladies-in-waiting of the Queen of the Night, who are fascinated by this young and foreign man. The birdcatcher Papageno tries to take credit for saving Tamino, but the three ladies punish him for his lie by making him unable to speak.   

Here Roderick Williams presents one of the largest personalities in the opera world - in the aria "Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja" – from The Royal Opera House in London:

The three ladies give Tamino a portrait of Pamina, the Queen of the Night’s daughter, who is being held as prisoner by Sarastro, ruler of the Temple of Wisdom. Tamino immediately falls in love and promises her mother to do everything to try to rescue Pamina. 

The furious Queen of the Night not only wish the return of Pamina, but also wants the power over Day back, which she has lost to Sarastro after her husband died. She gives Tamino a magic flute and Papageno a set of bells. With these instruments they can influence the mood of both man and beast. Three boys will also accompany them on their journey, offering advice and aid.    

Papageno finds Pamina and manages to escape with her. They both long for love, and sing the famous duet “Bei Männern welche Liebe fühlen”, here performed by the soprano Kate Royal and the baritone Michael Nagy in a concert with the Berliner Philharmoniker:

Meanwhile, Tamino has arrived at the Temple of Wisdom. Sarastro explains that he has detained Pamina to protect her from the ill influence of her mother. When Tamino and Pamina meet for the first time, they immediately fall in love.

ACT 2  
Tamino must undergo a series of gruelling tests to be admitted to Sarastro’s order, and he and Pamina are again separated.  Meanwhile the Queen of the Night tries to convince Pamina to take revenge on Sarastro: She gives her a dagger, and declares that if she does not agree to kill Sarastro, she will no longer be her daughter. Here is the furious aria ("Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen") with the soprano Diana Damrau from The Royal Opera House:

Monostatos, Sarastro’s servant, overhears this and tries to attack Pamina, but Sarastro catches him and intervenes.

Because of Tamino’s vow of silence, Pamina is devastated, and thinks the prince no longer loves her. In the clip below, you hear the soprano Mari Eriksmoen as Pamina – who will also sing this role here in Bergen – in a concert in Provence, with the aria “Ach, ich fühl’s, es ist verschwunden”:

At last the young couple can undergo the final test together. Likewise, Papageno finds his dream partner Papagena.

Listen to the baritone Thomas Oliemans as Papageno in Simon McBurney's version in the clip below. This is also the production Bergen National Opera will put on stage in Grieghallen in November 2022. Then Oliemans will team up with the Norwegian soprano Renate Ekerhovd, from the island Sotra west of the city of Bergen, in the role as Papagena:

Monostatos and the Queen of the Night attempt once more to destroy the Temple, but Sarastro stops them, and they are defeated by the light of the rising sun. 

Main source for this English version of the synopsis: De Nationale Opera in Amsterdam

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